Best 40-Under-40 Professor Ethan Mollick

pictureEthan Mollick

Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Assistant Professor of Management

Age: 38

Institution: The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania since 2009

Before current institution: PhD at MIT

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Marital status: Married

Children: 2


Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship – MIT, PhD

MBA, MIT BA, Harvard

Courses currently teaching: 

Introduction to Entrepreneurship

Implementing Entrepreneurial Ventures

Fun fact: #1 My first entrepreneurial experience was selling cow-shaped door stoppers when I was in middle school. I grew up in Wisconsin, which makes this slightly less weird, but only slightly.

Fun fact #2: When I first created my LinkedIn profile, I didn’t want to list my startup, which, at the time, was still in the process of being acquired.  Instead, to fill that empty time in my career history, I listed a number of fake “accomplishments” – such as “winning the gold in the 1976 Olympics in gymnastics” (I would have been one) and that I was “the original Lord of the Dance.”  I was confused when a few of my students started asking me about my Irish dancing experiences, and it was only later that I realized that they had only skimmed my entry and thought it was true…

Professor I most admire: Eric von Hippel, MIT (Note: This is a really rough question for junior professors–we don’t want to leave anyone out!)

Most memorable moment as a professor: There are lots of great moments, but one that comes to mind is the first time we played the Startup Game in class. This was a game I developed to teach the complexity of how startups worked and to introduce the importance of deeply thinking about entrepreneurship in being successful at it. Since the game involves some degree of chaos, at first, it was hard to tell whether it was going well, or everyone was confused, but, by the end, it was clear that everyone was having fun and learning as well. It was really gratifying to see that something that had involved so much planning and hard work paid off, and that we had created a new sort of classroom simulation as a result.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…”

It would be a toss-up between serial entrepreneur and late-night talk show host.

Students say:

“Professor Mollick is a great teacher and a mentor! I took a few entrepreneurship classes, and his class was by far the best and the most relevant. People say that entrepreneurship cannot be learnt, you have to go and do it. But Prof. Mollick picks relevant case studies that help us to learn from what other entrepreneurs have done before, and he always makes the class discussion interesting and points out the key learning points. Best of all, Prof. Mollick encourages us and mentors us through our ideas. He always asks the right questions that help us to validate the idea, and many of us who took his class have pursued ideas that started from the class project.”

“It was in Ethan Mollick’s Intro to Entrepreneurship class that we first wrote the business plan for CommonBond. His class was one of the best I took at Wharton. Learning about entrepreneurship is fun, and he made it even better.”

Go to Ethan Mollick’s Twitter page and you’ll find he is intrigued by the eccentric, peculiar things of academia. Academic ephemera and The Future of Everything are just some of the things he tweets about. “Part of why I was drawn to academia was an interest in the innovative, the historically fascinating, and the lyrical,” he says on his personal webpage. Still, this top professor’s true passion is entrepreneurship–his classes on the subject have helped MBAs and Executive MBAs at the Wharton School launch and grow their own businesses. Among the business plans that have come out of Mollick’s class is that of CommonBond, a startup that was launched to help students save on school loans by connecting them with alumni investors.

A former entrepreneur himself, Professor Mollick knows a thing or two about starting a business and uses his personal experience to help entrepreneurial-minded MBAs and EMBAs learn from his mistakes. Mollick’s academic research focuses on the role of founding members in successful startups and the factors that drive the performance of entrepreneurial companies.

Ethan Mollick is among “The World’s 40 Best B-School Profs Under the Age of 40


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